Having picked up a resounding 3-1 win over Burnley a couple of weeks ago, the international break arguably could not have come at a worse time for Newcastle.
Steve Bruce would have been hoping to keep the momentum going, but instead, has had to watch several of his first-team stars go off on international duty.
But with the Premier League resuming this weekend, the Magpies boss will be keen to ensure that his side picks up from where they left off, as they take on Manchester United at St James’ Park.
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side suffering a 6-1 thrashing at home to Tottenham, the obvious thought would be that United are there for the taking.
But Newcastle will have to be wary of a wounded Red Devils, and ahead of the game, are already facing a significant blow to their chances of picking up another famous victory just like last season.
Summer signing Jamal Lewis picked up a slight injury whilst off with Northern Ireland, with boss Ian Baraclough shedding light on the situation earlier this week.
Speaking ahead of their clash against Norway on Wednesday night, he said: “The only one who isn’t travelling is Jamal Lewis. He’s gone to have a scan on his ongoing Achilles niggle, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s improving. He mightn’t be able to play the two games so quickly, so it’s something I felt Newcastle had in mind for the player anyway.”
If you’re of a Newcastle persuasion, then hearing the words “Achilles” and “scan” isn’t the most promising of news. And whilst Baraclough was keen to put a positive spin on things, there’s no taking away from the fact Lewis is surely a major doubt for the game against United on Saturday.
And when you look at the 22-year-old’s performances for his new side this season, it becomes that much more clear why Newcastle could struggle immensely in his absence.
And in games across all competitions, he’s averaged 1.5 tackles per match, and that ability to be effective for his team both going forward and going back gives Newcastle an added dimension. With United having players who can be devastating on the counter-attack with their places – the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to name a couple – ensuring the transitions are well dealt with is crucial is to the Magpies’ chances.
Losing Lewis would be the kind of blow that could have major consequences on Saturday.
And in other news, this Newcastle flop has thrived since his St James’ Park exit.